The books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Bible tell about the end of the exile of the Jews in Babylon. They had been away from home for a long time, and when they were released and reached the city of Jerusalem they discovered that the walls of the city were broken in many places and the gates had been destroyed. The few Jews who had been left behind were, according to a report from Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, in great trouble and shame.
It was a hard word — a tragic turn of events. Nehemiah’s response to the difficult news is found in Nehemiah 1:4:
When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
For days he wept and fasted and prayed. He didn’t start planning a mission to repair the walls.He didn’t send out emails to all his allies seeking support. He didn’t begin recruiting an army to go back home with him to restore the city. He sat before God and confessed his sins and the sins of his people and reminded God of God’s covenant. He prayed and fasted and fasted and prayed. For days. He went to the source of all that is and all that has ever been and all that will ever be and laid out the deepest concerns of his heart, holding nothing back, letting his sorrow flow like a river before the God of the whole cosmos.
I was reminded of that story as we began studying the Lord’s Prayer Sunday. As part of that message I pointed out that because “Our Father” is “in heaven” we can be sure that our mighty, sovereign God is capable of addressing any situation we might face, no matter how cosmic. That means that we can pray about absolutely ANYTHING with confidence and hope. And because God IS “Our Father” we know that God cares about everything that we care about and cares about each of us as deeply as the best Daddy cares for his toddlers.
That also means that when tragedy strikes, or news of tragedy comes our way, we can, with confidence, meet the situation not out of our own strength, our own abilities to cope, our own sense of what to do next, but by turning to God in prayer. Deep prayer. Unceasing prayer. Prayer with weeping and mourning. Prayer of confession and repentance. Prayer with fasting. We can turn to God knowing that God WILL answer, in one way or another, even if it is not on our timetable. We can ask in faith for what we need, trusting in God’s goodness and love.
We can pray, like a three year old: Daddy, you can do anything anytime anywhere. I need you. Help!
Or, if we cannot even think what to pray, we can pray the perfect prayer:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….
I hope you are praying that prayer often this week, and allowing it to change you from the inside out.
In this season of prayer I hope you will also commit yourself to praying for seven families from our church, and for the guests who visited recently. Each week we will send out names from our most recent directory, moving sequentially through the directory. Every day please lift one of those families in prayer. Pray for their health and wellbeing, for their families, for their special concerns. But most of all pray that this family might become more faithful followers of Jesus: that they might choose to pray the Lord’s Prayer and let it shape their hearts and lives. If we are faithful to this, every family will eventually be prayed for by hundreds of others from our church. And as you pray for them, lift that prayer for our whole church. May God revive and restore us!
Blessings and peace,